Toronto school bans juice boxes from students' lunches

juice boxes
CC BY 2.0 Steven De Polo

As part of its litterless lunch program, Jackman Avenue Junior Public School has told parents that juice boxes are no longer allowed. It's a brilliant move that will reduce sugar consumption too.

A Toronto elementary school has banned juice boxes from students’ lunches. In a letter sent home, parents were told to pack litterless lunches with reusable containers and water bottles. Juice boxes, which become trash as soon as kids are done with them, do not fit the criteria for the litterless lunch program, of which Jackman Avenue Junior Public School, a certified EcoSchool, is very proud. The note read:

“Kids don’t understand how to dispose of juice boxes. They put them in the garbage instead of recycling them. Wrong. They put them in the recycling but forget to remove the straw. Wrong. They put them in the recycling but their (sic) still half full. Wrong. They leave them on the floor in the lunchroom. Wrong.”

Principal Rory Sullivan explained that ‘wrong’ refers to a game played during school assemblies when children are asked whether a piece of trash is being put in the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ place. He said that kids have a tendency to leave their juice boxes lying around on floors and tables, and so staff must remind kids to take their trash home, as part of the litterless program. Banning them outright makes it easier for everyone.

An added bonus (although this is not cited by Jackman School as a motivation for the ban) is that getting rid of juice boxes can make students healthier. Fruit juice is “the latest food demon, assailed by critics as liquid sugar with the nutritional value of soda pop,” writes the National Post. There are rumors that Health Canada will soon move away from endorsing fruit juice as if it were equivalent to whole fruit, although this has not been confirmed.

Juice has long been protected by a curious “health halo” that makes people think it’s healthier than it is, but, as Dr. Yoni Friedhoff, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa points out, drop for drop, fruit juice contains the same amount of calories and sugar as soft drinks:

“Nobody slugs back a can of Coca-Cola every morning for breakfast thinking it was a good choice. But there are plenty of folks who have a glass of orange juice on their table.”

Fruit juice really doesn’t stand a chance now that environmental concerns are also on the table, thanks to schools like Jackman. Tetra Pak and other brands of aseptic packaging are made of super-thin layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum and are hardly ever recycled. Only 58 percent of American households have access to carton-recycling facilities, let alone follow through with recycling.

Tetra Pak makes the immensely irritating mistake of boasting about its recyclability without actually using any recycled materials in its production process, which erodes credibility. (Used Tetra Paks are turned into toilet paper, among other things.) What Warren McLaren wrote years ago for TreeHugger still applies today:

“Some things just annoy me to the point of distraction. A case in point being companies selling products by proclaiming their materials are easily recyclable. Especially when their own product does not include any of these very same materials. To my mind this is hypocrisy. It is ‘do as I say, not do as I do.’ Recycling is a complete loop. A joined circle. You are only recycling when you are buying recycled.”

Jackman School is on the right track and should be praised for its litterless efforts that can double as healthy diet initiatives. Less garbage and less sugar, all in one fell swoop -- other schools should take note.

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